Offended? That’s the price of freedom.

In our liberal democratic society, public authorities have a duty to protect and advance human rights, including our right to freedom of expression. They should not be victimising individuals for lawful actions, however offensive. Individuals, of course, have other obligations, and will keep their own conscience. We may exercise self-restraint in our own expressions out of politeness or respect. We may even urge others to do the same. But we should never call on the law to enforce our personal values or tastes, however deeply held these may be.

Source: Offended? That’s the price of freedom.

The Oxford Declaration on Freedom of Thought and Expression

Further to my post, a few days back, on the Freedom of Thought report, the World Humanist Congress, which has been meeting in Oxford over the past week has issued The Oxford Declaration on Freedom of Thought and Expression. The full text is reproduced below.

Candidates

Full Text of Declaration

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Freedom of Expression

I’ve been reading the report, Freedom of Thought 2013 published by the International Humanist and Ethical Union:

Freedom of Thought 2013 is the first report to look at the rights and treatment of the non-religious in every country in the world. Specifically, it looks at how non-religious individuals—whether they call themselves atheists, or agnostics, or humanists, or freethinkers or are otherwise just simply not religious—are treated because of their lack of religion or absence of belief in a god. We focus on discrimination by state authorities; that is systemic, legal or official forms of discrimination and restrictions on freedom of thought, belief and expression.

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Religion, Freedom of Expression and Evidence

A couple of articles drew my attention recently: Religion Takes Offence Too Easily in the Urban Times and a short note on the debate in the House of Lords, International compliance with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights concerning freedom of belief.

From the Lords’ debate:

… Lord Singh of Wimbledon: ‘Religions do not help themselves by claims of exclusivity or superiority. This simply demeans other members of our one human race and suggests that they, the others, are lesser beings. We all know what happens in the school playground when one boy boasts—it is usually boys—that, “My dad is bigger or stronger or cleverer than your dad”. The end result is fisticuffs. My appeal to our different religions and the leaders of religion is to stop playing children’s games.’

From the Urban Times piece:

… offering my two cents. I wrote that therein lies the bane of religion. When confronted with fact, the religious deem it a mockery of their beliefs. They expect their irrational points of view to be treated with the same respect as all facts, neglecting the FACT that their claims have been proven unable to stand up to rational, realistic, or critical scrutiny. [On second thought, they demand that their points of view be treated better than facts, because you can make fun of facts, but you apparently can’t make fun of theological assertions.]

Both of these remarks seem to me to make entirely valid points. In the UK, society is certainly becoming more secular, and the suggestion that religion is needed to maintain morals and standards of behaviour is not acceptable. The argument that use of the scientific method and the requirement for evidence is some form of bullying is no less sound. I realise, of course, that not everyone will change their views despite overwhelming evidence—anthropogenic climate change, creationism/intelligent design, vaccination, the Decision Review System.